Thursday, 31 August 2017

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ August 2017

I have been enjoying I’d Die for You and Other Lost Stories a collection of eighteen unpublished short stories by F.Scott Fitzgerald now published in a very fashionable pale green hardback with an interesting introduction by Anne Margaret Daniel. This is a book not only for Fitzgerald fans but also for aspiring writers. From letters Fitzgerald wrote to his agent Harold Ober they can see how Fitzgerald reluctantly adjusted his style to fit the demands of editors at Saturday Evening Post or Colliers, magazines which at that time published short stories and paid well for them also. There are photos of his altered manuscripts as well as photos of the man himself. Anne Margaret Daniel is a lecturer at the New School University in New York and has published extensively on Fitzgerald.

Her remarks in the Introduction and Editorial Notes amount to a mini biography. There are thirty pages of Explanatory Notes which, to me, just goes to show that Fitzgerald’s writing is now looked at in an historical context. This is a good time to remind you of A. Scott Berg’s book Max Perkins: Editor of Genius which has been reissued. I think a movie is on its way. Perkins was more than an editor – more a private counsellor and adviser not only to F.Scott Fitzgerald but to many other literary luminaries of that time including Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe. His own life was rather tempestuous also.

Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg

Howard Jacobson’s latest pot-boiler called Pussy: A Novel is not for everyone. It is a satire on a Particular Prominent Person and very funny. A sense of humour is needed as you follow the adventures of Prince Fracassus, heir to the Duchy of Origen and his tutor Professor Kolskeggur Probrius. Illustrations by Chris Riddell.

Pussy: A Novel by Howard Jacobson

We had a nice launching party at Abbey’s for a book about Ukrainian migrants by Olga Chaplin a member of a well-known family. It is called The Man From Talalaivka: A Story of Love, Life and Loss from Ukraine. A true story of a family cast off their farm by Stalin, sheltering from bombs in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany and finally making a new life in Australia. Very moving.

The Man From Talalaivka by Olga Chaplin

There are two excellent new science books for children (and others). They are Do Not Lick this Book by Idan Ben-Barak and Julian Frost. An amusing illustrated story about all the microbes on your skin. Probably best not to give it to a finicky child! The other is The Invisible War: A Tale on Two Scales by Ailsa Wild, Ben Hutchings, Briony Barr and Gregory Crocetti published by Scale Free Network and set during the First World War. The wonderful illustrations tell two stories - first from the view of a Victorian nurse aiding the troops and second from the view of gut microbes which fight to keep her body alive when she contracts dysentery.

Keep well,


Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Monday, 5 June 2017

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ June 2017

Robert Dessaix's new book, The Pleasures of Leisure, is sure to please his many fans. It is rather like having a desultory conversation with a witty friend about life and philosophy in a rather nice place. There are plenty of allusions and you will feel good that you recognise them. His voice comes through clear, honest and personal. He suggests you should cultivate a talent to just loaf about. A pleasure indeed.

My favourite amongst Robert’s other books is A Mother’s Disgrace, which is a classic of Australian autobiography, while other pieces include Night Letters, As I Was Saying, and What Days are For. July will see new paperback editions of Arabesques: A Tale of Double Lives and Twilight of Love: Travels with Turgenev and Corfu: A Novel.

Arabesques by Robert Dessaix Corfu: A Novel by Robert Dessaix

Have you realised that Donna Leon's latest book is out now? I have not missed a single title and this is number twenty six. It is called Earthly Remains. She has been edging towards this subject for some time, showing her concern about what is happening to the Venetian lagoons. Commissario Brunetti too is showing signs of stress and takes off to spend time alone on a tiny island in the laguna, reading and rowing with an old fisherman who has a secret past.

Earthly Remains by Donna Leon

Did you enjoy My Name is Lucy Barton by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout? If so, you must now read Anything Is Possible which takes us on a tour around the various relatives and fellow residents of Amash, Illinois. When I first looked at the chapter headings I thought this might be a collection of short stories. In a way it is as each character gets their place in the sun. Lucy Barton, now a famous writer in New York, comes home for a visit which is a good excuse for memories to be brought out and retold. Very satisfying.

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

If you are new to Elizabeth Strout please read My Name is Lucy Barton before you read this latest one. The other titles are Olive Kitteridge, The Burgess Boys, Amy & Isabelle and Abide with Me. Upstairs in Language Book Centre you can find Mi Chiamo Lucy Barton. Remember if the stairs are a problem for you please ask one of our booksellers to show you the lift in the foyer.

I am admirer of the work of writer and historian Mark Dapin. He has written numerous things including a crime thriller, King of the Cross and a lovely story called Spirit House, set in Bondi, about a boy’s relationship with his Jewish grandfather who had been a prisoner of war with the Japanese. Recently he has been the editor for From the Trenches: Best Anzac Writing of World War One and the The Penguin Book of Australian War Writing while The Nasho’s War: Australian National Servicemen in Vietnam won several awards. He has now been commissioned to produce a splendid book Jewish Anzacs: Jews in the Australian Military, 435 pages including photographs and index.

It has a Memorial Roll of all those who served from the Boer War to Vietnam and Afghanistan including an Honour Roll of those who made the supreme sacrifice. For the Jewish faith the act of Remembrance (zachor) is an important duty so I am sure this book will be coveted by many families. Despite the title Mark apologises that Anzacs from New Zealand are not included but this work is being done now.

Did you watch a series on SBS about Scottish Manor Houses? I think the Scottish Tourist Board must have had a hand in this? I was especially interested to see the huge difference in visitor numbers when the The Da Vinci Code became such a huge bestseller. From just a few visitors to the Rosslyn Chapel suddenly hundreds were turning up each day. So I must remind you about the controversial original work published by Leigh, Baigent and Lincoln called The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.

There was a court case about this – the authors claiming Dan Brown had used their book as a basis for his story. Interestingly both titles were issued by the same publisher. You can get the French edition of Da Vinci Code upstairs at Language Book Centre.

There is a King Arthur film starting now so I want to remind you of T. H. White’s famous epic The Once and Future King. 

Historical fantasy writer Mary Stewart also wrote the four book Merlin series beginning with The Crystal Cave, then The Hollow Hills, The Wicked Day and The Last Enchantment. Some of these might be out of print.

I am not a great fan of performance art but despite this I cannot miss a word of The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose which has recently won both the Premier’s Award for Fiction and the Stella Prize. The story revolves around a real event, one of Marina Abramovic’s famous events. This time it is called 'The Artist is Present' and is staged in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Marina sat for seventy five days at a small table with one chair opposite. No talking – just meeting of eyes. It became the hit of the town – people queued to sit and art circles were agog.

Amongst the onlookers there is a famous composer, an art teacher from the south, the ghost of Marina’s mother and another ghostly commentator. Art lovers will not miss this and people like me who don’t get Performance Art will discover a thing or two. Bravo Heather Rose who has written other novels as well as books for primary age children under the name of Angelica Banks (which she uses when she writes with Danielle Wood). A writer not yet receiving the applause she deserves.

Birders will be all agog! There is a new Australian Bird Guide, published by CSIRO and with six authors and illustrators: Menkhorst, Rogers, Clarke, Davies, Marsaka and Franklin. According to Robyn Williams on the Science Show, who already has two other guides, this is a terrific achievement – ten years in the making. There are a few more species and digital imaging has allowed the illustrators to be even more precise and there is a huge digital database. Our resident birder Lindy Jones is probably fondling a copy right now.

Keep well,


Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Friday, 28 April 2017

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ May 2017

It doesn’t surprise me in the least that Abbey’s has sold a great many copies of The Word Detective: A Life in Words – from Serendipity to Selfie by John Simpson, former Chief Editor of The Oxford English Dictionary, or more colloquially the OED.

Not only are many of our customers wordy people, but here at Abbey’s we have a very special relationship with Oxford University Press, and also with Cambridge University Press. By special agreement, we have stocked every available title from these famous publishers. We have had a complete set of OED on our shelves, and in one magnificent moment even sold a leatherbound edition of the OED - I don’t think such a thing exists any more.

In the early days, we also had some of the limp fascicles that were published to keep people up to date while waiting for the real edition! Today you can subscribe to an online edition, which includes the Historical Thesaurus. You may even find that your library is a subscriber and you can access the OED there. Keep in mind the OED is a Historical Dictionary. Lexicographers search to find the first time a word was used - no simple task. The definition completes the task.

You will be amazed how much information is included in the online edition. Check it out for yourself. Meanwhile read this wonderful book, which is a mix of memoir and reference. John Simpson describes the work of the lexicographer and when he spies a tasty word, he takes time to digress and discuss just how this word was handled. So this is a book you can read bit by bit and enjoy the ride. Simpson uses his wry humour to describe his progress up the ranks in the dictionary underworld, culminating in the triumph of the online edition in March 2000. It is constantly updated. Have fun!

You can’t be interested in words and not know David CrystalHis books are as entertaining as they are instructive. Recent titles include: Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar, Making a Point, The Story of English in 100 Words, and Spell It Out. More interesting to customers at Abbey’s could be The Oxford Illustrated Shakespearean Dictionary, written with his son Ben Crystal, or The Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation or Think on My Words: Explaining Shakespeare’s Words. You can find these in our Shakespearean Studies section, where you will also find the plays, sonnets, cribs and audio books. Two more unusual titles you will find at Abbey’s are Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language and Tyndale’s Bible: St Matthews Gospel Read in the Original Pronunciation (audio book).

It’s not often that a novel is re-published in hardback fifty years after first publication.
The Watch Tower, Elizabeth Harrower’s distressing story of the psychological enslavement of two unfortunate sisters abandoned by their mother, is now available in a special hardback Collector’s Edition from Text Publishing. And to make it even more collectable, Elizabeth has been in to Abbey’s to sign copies of her book. It is a brilliant story of marital enslavement and the struggle to retain one’s sense of self. Both the hardback and paperback are available in Text Classics. Both include an introduction by Joan London.

I recommend, also in Text Classics, her three other novels written in the fifties – The Long Prospect, Down in the City and The Catherine Wheel – which have introductions by Fiona McGregor, Delia Falconer and Romana Koval respectively. More recent publications include In Certain Circles and A Few Days in the Country: And Other Stories. This last title contains the fabulous story Alice, first published in the New Yorker.

I enjoyed reading John Meacham’s biography of the 41st President of the United States, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush. I guess George H W is one of the last of that American class of true gentlemen, always working for the good of their country and caring for their people – Presidents like Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eisenhower. Who else could have had such preparation to become President? Member of Congress, Member of the Senate, Head of the CIA, Head of the Republican Party, Envoy to China and Vice President for two terms to the great hero Ronald Reagan. 

Well brought up, Bush was careful never to upstage Ronnie, although Nancy Reagan kept an eagle eye on everyone. Bush became a Texan businessman after service in the Air Force during the Second World War, but was brought up a New Englander – expected to succeed, but never ever to boast and always to be kind. One amazing impression I have gained is that American elections are a huge slog and cost enormous amounts of money! Where does it all come from? One more thing… although this is a very fat book (640 pages plus 240 pages of index, notes, bibliography and acknowledgements), it is a pleasure to read. Beautiful paper and nice typeface, it is best laid flat on a table while you read.

I really enjoyed Mark Colvin’s book Light and Shadow: Memoirs of a Spy’s SonIt would be useful to read if you were also to see the terrific play at the Belvoir Theatre called, unexpectedly, Mark Colvin’s Kidney. Mark Colvin is the ABC’s longest serving and most influential radio broadcaster. He still fronts PM. His memoir focuses especially on his relationship with his somewhat distant but loved father, a British diplomat. He discovers his father is also a spy, which explains how he came to spend his school holidays with his father in Outer Mongolia! 

Colvin reported on many world-shattering events, such as the Rwanda crisis and the Iran hostage crisis. You will see flashbacks to these in the play, but in reality the background of the play refers to the phone-hacking crisis involving Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World in the first decade of this century. The book and the play complement each other. Don’t miss them.

Have you noticed the photos of visiting authors which Craig takes and includes in our newsletters? We plan to create a place to show these permanently. I was surprised at one visiting author whose name is Malachy Tallack. He comes from the Shetland Islands, so I thought he was a bit out of his way! He is also a singer/songwriter. His first book, Sixty Degrees North: Around the World in Search of Home, was greatly admired as both a memoir and a travel log. The 60th parallel touches lower Norway, Sweden and Finland, Greenland, Alaska and the great spaces of Canada and Russia. He describes these places in beautiful clear prose. Not surprisingly, he ends up in the Shetland Islands. 

His new book is The Un-Discovered Islands: An Archipelago of Myths and Mysteries, Phantoms and Fakes. Be careful how you say this because he means islands which were once “discovered”, either in myth or fact, but no longer exist. Quite a fascinating story. I remember I once thought I could see Atlantis from the coast of Cornwall while sleeping out under the stars. The book is most beautifully illustrated by Katie Scott and would make a special gift.

Keep well,


Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ March 2017

A new book from Michael Lewis is always a thrill.

His energetic dissection of financial booms and busts, always peopled with eccentric characters and amazing costs have all been bestsellers. Wall Street workers are usually anxious to know what he will write about next! This time prepare to be surprised – for The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed the World is about psychology (and of course mathematics). I am beginning to believe that all the problems of the world could be solved with an algorithm! It is a pity we don’t all speak that language.

This time Lewis is writing about two seemingly disparate Israeli scholars, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, who together worked on how we make decisions, especially in uncertain conditions. Eventually, after the death of Amos, Kahneman was awarded a Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences (which he says was mostly for work he had done with Amos). This is not a book to be dipped into at bedtime – pay attention and work it out!

In typical Michael Lewis style, it is filled with anecdotes and character assessments, and somehow you can manage to understand the developments in cognitive psychology and how we make decisions, how we spend, how mistakes can be made in medicine or in basketball even.

Michael Lewis has thirteen other titles to his name, beginning with Liar’s Poker and including Flash Boys, The Big Short, Moneyball and The New New Thing as some of the books which have been made into movies. Terrific, entertaining reading, but this time you’ll have to work at it.

Here are two recommendations for readers interested in Literary Fiction. If your interest is in the writers of the thirties such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe and Ernest Hemingway you will of course be interested to read about their legendary editor at Scribers. Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A Scott Berg is full of fascinating and useful information, not only about these famous authors but also about the world of literature generally. Hendrix Willem van Loon even gets a mention. Who has heard of him these days? (He wrote The Story of Mankind and other popular treatises).

The second book is by Elizabeth Strout and is called My Name is Lucy Barton. The novels by Elizabeth Strout are the sort of steady sellers which are usually recommended by one reader to another. If you don’t remember her name perhaps you remember the name Olive Kitteridge, which was the title of one of her earlier remarkable books and which won the Pulitzer Prize. Don’t miss this new one. It was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and I think it should win.

The story concerns a young woman whose rural childhood is indeed poverty-stricken, both emotionally and financially, but who later becomes a successful writer, wife and mother although, as her mother-in-law says, “she comes from nothing”. Heartbreakingly true writing. Two more of her books are Amy & Isabelle and The Burgess Boys. I’m going to read them now.

If you’ve been an Abbey’s customer for a long time you probably know we didn’t have a Sports section, despite intermittent calls for such stock. This has changed now and there is a Sports section near the information counter at the front of the store. I became aware of this when I wanted a book given a terrific review by Michael Heyward, the publisher at Text Publishing. It is called String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis with an introduction by John Jeremiah Sullivan. It is a very nice edition, green hardback with a fantastic photo of a tennis ball for the end papers - it would make a lovely gift for tennis fiends. There are five essays including a very funny one on David Foster Wallace’s own junior tennis career in the windy state of Illinois. Judging angles comes into it, so once again mathematics is useful. The final essay on Roger Federer is a gem, as is Roger Federer.

David Foster Wallace was famous for his novel Infinite Jestset in a drug rehabilitation centre in Boston, but he became more famous for his essays as a cultural critic. Two we have in stock are A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again or Consider the Lobster: Essays and Arguments!

You might find some other surprising titles in the Sports section such as a book on Australian Rules by Chip le Grand called The Straight Dope: The Inside Story of Sports Biggest Drug Scandal or The Ugly Game: The Qatari Plot to Buy the World Cup by Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert. I think there will be many people who would enjoy The Meaning of Cricket: or How to Waste Your Life on an Inconsequential Sport written by Jon Hotten, who is a rather famous cricket blogger. I liked this quote from the blurb: “Cricket is a team game entirely dependent on individual performance.”

I’m now going to read Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meacham, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a New York Times bestseller. This looks fascinating. Lots of photographs, index, bibliography and 169 pages of notes. The blurb says “this is an affecting portrait of a man who, driven by destiny and duty, forever sought, ultimately, to put the country first” and goes on to say “should be required reading for every president-elect”. I don’t suppose it is much use offering it to Donald Trump.

Keep well,


Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Monday, 5 December 2016

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ December 2016

I fully recommend Mark Colvin’s journalistic memoir, Light and Shadow: Memoirs of a Spy’s Son.

The ABC’S esteemed journalist has given us a potted history of the last fifty years as he describes the adventures of himself and others as well as a touching memoir of his youth and his relationship with his father who was, indeed, a spy.

Have you read any of the novels written by Elizabeth Jane Howard? They  are all set in the Home Counties among upper-middle class people (like herself), very observant and perceptive. They used to be regarded as romantic but as time passes her books are admired for the very truthful picture they paint of that sort of English family. The five books which make up the Cazalet Chronicles are The Light Years, Marking Time, Confusion, Casting Off and All Change.

A TV version was made of the first two and I think now BBC radio is also broadcasting them. There are two collections of good short stories as well. They are called The Long View and Getting it Right. I’ve just read her biography Elizabeth Jane Howard: A Dangerous Innocence by Artemis Cooper and it is absolutely full of literary gossip.

She was always known as Jane, she was a prodigious entertainer and cook, still writing in her nineties and famous also for her three husbands and many lovers, who included Arthur Koestler, Laurie Lee and Cecil Day-Lewis (only the best literati). Her first husband was Peter Scott, (the birdlife man) and longest lasting third husband was Kingsley Amis. Martin Amis publicly thanks her for making sure he got a proper education. As he says, “rescuing me from the arms of Harold Robbins and such like”. Hilary Mantel is a fan.

Artemis Cooper, daughter of John Julius Norwich and granddaughter of Lady Diana Cooper, is of course in a good position to write such an enjoyable biography. Her previous effort was Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure which was the authorised biography of the greatest travel writer of the twentieth century, who was great pals with Lady Diana Cooper and Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, and lots of other women also.

Just out now you can have Dashing to the Post: The Letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor selected and edited by Adam Sisman (who recently wrote John le CarrĂ©: The Biography. His introduction to the letters, could serve you as a shortened version of the biography of the gad-about known as Paddy.

Frankly, I can see why he hadn’t finished the third volume of his account of his famous walk, in the Thirties, from London to Constantinople. He spent an awful lot of time writing letters – but rather wonderful letters. Artemis Cooper and Colin Thubron (another great travel writer), finished the third volume for him after he died in his nineties. The three volumes are called A Time of Gifts, Between the Woods and the Water and The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos.

For another amusing and interesting book from this time try Deborah Devonshire’s Wait for Me: Memoirs of the Youngest Mitford Sister. It was a New York Times Bestseller. Artemis Cooper is married to Antony Beevor with whom she wrote Paris after the Liberation: 1944-1949. I won’t go on about Antony Beevor, except to say ALL HIS BOOKS ARE GOOD. I am sure you know him.

Admirers of the writings of Jan Morris will pounce upon Ariel: A Literary Life of Jan Morris by Derek Johns, who was her literary agent. For some, her most famous book is Conundrum describing her transition from male to female but I prefer her wonderful descriptions of places such as Oxford, Venice or Sydney, or Spain. She preferred not to be known as a travel writer because, as she said, she didn’t move around!

As James Morris she was known for many fascinating works of history including the Pax Brittanica Trilogy describing the British Empire. This is made up of Heaven’s Command: An Imperial Progress, then Pax Brittanica: The Climax of Empire and finally Farewell the Trumpets: An Imperial Retreat. These will fit in nicely with Julia Baird’s wonderful new book on Victoria: The Queen - An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire.

For a bit of satirical fun I recommend the latest adventures of Plant, Michael Wilding’s investigator who is now investigating decriminalisation of marijuana, In the Valley of the Weed.

Distinguished historian and intellectual Inga Clendinnen died recently. You will find all of her books available at Abbey’s varying from The Cost of Courage in Aztec Society and her essays Reading the Holocaust, Agamemnon’s Kiss, Tiger’s Eye: A Memoir, True Stories: On History, Truth, Aboriginality and Politics, Dancing with Strangers, about the arrival of settlers in Australia, even The History Question: Who Owns the Past? which appeared in a Quarterly Essay.

I was in Abbey’s for the launch of Naida Haxton’s memoir called Res Gestae: Things Done. Naida was the first practicing female barrister in Queensland and later became the Editor of the NSW Law Reports. Her book will inspire many more legal females.

The shop was looking lovely – absolutely full of books! Don’t forget that upstairs you can find Language Book Centre and Galaxy Bookshop for science fiction. If you want to use the lift ask one of the staff to show you where it is located in the lobby.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all,


Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers